We have all the tips – from a luxury travel consultant – on just how to travel with kids and stay sane during a pandemic
For each of us behind the scenes at LUXYMOM®, travel was a way of life – before COVID. But since the pandemic hit, our lives have all but come to a halt. I don’t know about you, but my heart aches for a trip to see family, who I haven’t seen for many months due to this crisis. I’m dying to go north to see the leaves change for the season. And I’m ready to give my kids the experiences they’ve missed out on for so many months.
BUT, am I ready for TRAVELING in this new age?
To get the scoop on just how to travel with kids for the upcoming holidays, I’ve called on my dear friend and world traveler Justyna Della Valle, of Arrive Travel, based in Chicago but planning luxe trips worldwide.
Justyna has been a great friend of mine for quite a few years now. And if I can attest to one thing, it’s that she is the most-traveled person I know. She and her husband have traveled the world for many years, discovering all the best places you’ve never heard about, and more.
When we were all single sans kids, they were jet-setters. But unlike many of the rest of us, once they had their two children, they actually never stopped traveling.
(audible gasps, hands on cheeks)
That’s right – they never stopped traveling once they had kids. They just figured out how to make it work for them!
Since travel is a way of life and literally Justyna’s career, she and her family also never stopped traveling during the pandemic. They’ve just figured out how to navigate it as painlessly as possible.
So she’s the perfect person to give us all a little bit of insider knowledge as we approach the upcoming holiday season and may be considering a little travel of your own. I sat down with her for a little Q&A, and I’m sharing it with you, below:
LUXYMOM®: Justyna, you’re a busy mom who travels A LOT. How often DO you travel, if we were to inquire?
JUSTYNA: I was much less busy before welcoming our spunky 1-year-old to our family – haha! Our family lives to travel, and we value the rich experiences travel brings us, above everything else.
Prior to this year, much of our travel was structured around my husband’s travel to conferences, which are all being offered virtually this year.
When his work takes us internationally, we add on to explore a new destination that we can reach easily from that city. For example, we traveled to India last year and visited the Maldives after.
In a normal year, we travel three out of four weekends each month during the fall and spring, which is busiest with conferences, and always spend a few weeks in Europe during the summer months. This year, we are navigating constantly evolving travel restrictions when selecting destinations and finding that I cannot plan ahead like I used to, which takes me out of my comfort zone.
LUXYMOM®: So you traveled with kids before COVID hit, which many parents find difficult enough. But how did you find the will to venture back out into traveling while COVID is still a thing?
Justyna: There is no question that this travel climate makes it makes it much more difficult to travel with children. Children over two are required to wear masks and it is very strictly enforced on board.
We are lucky that our son has experience wearing a mask at five-years-old, but as our daughter approaches two, it will become a much more stressful onboard experience. There is also additional packing and planning required for flying now, as food service is suspended on board and many airport restaurants remain closed, despite airport traffic returning to more normal levels.
Our family has decided that the risk and additional stress of travel in this climate is outweighed by the benefits of travel, and we made very special memories this summer traveling to destinations we would not normally consider. For example, since Europe was off the table, we pivoted and traveled to a dude ranch in Montana.
Like most of my clients, I was seeking a naturally socially distant destination and glamping in Montana checked all those boxes! It was my son’s favorite trip and he still talks about feeding his goats and chickens each morning, and he even picked up a new skill we didn’t know he had – go-cart racing.
LUXYMOM®: What is your biggest piece of advice for parents with young children who might be afraid to take the leap and travel right now?
Justyna: I advise my clients that they need to do what is best for their families and calculate their personal risk vs. benefit tolerance. I think this is something that is true in parenting in general, as we all value different things and it is a good reminder for us as moms to remember that we are all doing what we feel is best for our children. Like many of us, we had a very difficult time with my son in the early months when school first closed. We found that when we began to travel again, offering him a sense of normalcy and a distraction from his anxiety and fear of the unknown made it all worth it. For many clients, we are booking destinations within driving distance, private aviation, and private home rentals.
LUXYMOM®: What reasonable precautions should families take when en route to a destination?
Justyna: Be sure to pack extra cloth face masks for the kiddos so they can change them as they become soiled, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in an easily accessible spot, as well as several plastic bags you can use to safely dispose of contaminated wipes.
LUXYMOM®: What are some tips when searching for a destination that will still offer amenities and attractions in our current COVID landscape?
Justyna: I always recommend working with a travel advisor who knows you and your family and can make recommendations tailored to your likes and dislikes. It is even more important to work with someone now who can advise you on the constantly evolving travel restrictions, testing requirements if applicable, and can leverage their relationships with partners to make your trip seamless.
LUXYMOM®: Where can parents go to get up to date and reliable information regarding travel restrictions?
Justyna: I recommend first checking with your place of residence to see what the most up-to-date restrictions are upon your return. In Chicago where I am based, the list is updated each Tuesday when I hold my breath to see if any of my clients’ trips will be affected by states added to the quarantine list.
For the most up-to-date travel restrictions at your destination, I recommend using the IATA Map. It is always best to check with your travel advisor for additional information. For example, many countries are open for travel with a testing requirement in place (for adults) and your travel advisor can help you navigate the testing process.
LUXYMOM®: What are some of your favorite travel destinations for families?
Justyna: Borgo Eganzia, Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World®, Blackberry Mountain, Montage Palmetto Bluff, and Paws Up.
LUXYMOM®: What are some of your favorite types of accommodations for families?
Justyna: Home rentals are always easiest so you do not have to go out for every meal, which can be frustrating with little ones, but I am in love with the hotel experience so I find that a home rental at a resort is the best compromise. I love the villas at Borgo Egnazia and the home rentals at Montage Palmetto Bluff.
LUXYMOM®: What are your biggest tips for packing for a family, when you have a lot to pack but don’t want to carry a million pieces of luggage?
Justyna: I recommend to always ship as much as you can directly to your hotel or rental home in advance. I find myself anxious when I have too many things and limit our family to one large checked bag for the four of us.
To accomplish packing everything into one bag, I use space bags to reduce the size of clothing, and ship diapers, formula, snacks and pouches, as well as bulky pool floaties and ship the leftovers directly home from the hotel. I only travel with a stroller that can be folded up and put in the overhead bin to reduce time waiting for gate checked strollers (the Yoyo Baby Zen is my favorite).
LUXYMOM®: Any other helpful pieces of advice, or notes from your own travels and as a busy mom?
Justyna: Don’t be too hard on yourself—let the kiddos watch their iPad for the duration of the flight and eat snacks as a meal on travel days. All rules are off when you are trying to get from point A to point B so don’t be too hard on yourself! Also – for international travel I prevent jet lag by premedicating with melatonin starting three days prior to arrival at time of bedtime at your destination. Always check with your pediatrician if it is appropriate for your children.